Businessman leaves millions to Oxfam under 'common tragedy'

A wealthy businessman has left millions to the charity Oxfam after inserting a common tragedy clause into his will.

Richard Cousins died along with his two sons, his fiancé and her daughter when their plane crashed in Australia on New Year’s Eve.

Mr Cousins, who was the chief executive of the Compass Group, had made provision in his will for what should happened if all his immediate family died in a single event. His brothers would each receive £1m but the bulk of his fortune, estimated at £41m, would go to Oxfam.

Many people include a common tragedy clause, sometimes referred to as a catch all provision, when drawing up their will. It means their estate will go exactly where they choose if their family is involved in a single tragic event.

If there is no such clause, the estate will be divided up in a way set down by law. This means it will pass to your nearest surviving relative or relatives, even if you may be estranged from them or they are people you hardly know.

The only way to ensure your assets are passed on exactly as you want is to make a will and keep it up to date. It appears that Mr Cousins had received good advice and drawn up a will that covered all eventualities.

A spokesman for Oxfam said: "We are extremely grateful for this bequest of which we have only recently been notified.

"We are working with the family and our board of trustees to identify how the money will be used."

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of wills and probate.

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